Pros: Spacious; maneuverable; easygoing ride; hip and stylish; nice roster of standard features.

Cons: Some interior plastics feel cheap; questionably appliance-like styling; not very spirited or nimble; noticeable road and wind noise.

What's New: Base 1.8 and Indigo edition no longer available.

Nothing looks quite like the boxy and asymmetrical Nissan Cube. Inside and out, the Cube has style that's anything but commonplace, yet this economical hatchback offers surprising practicality and utility. Mostly unchanged for the new model year, the 2013 Nissan Cube remains a fun and functional choice.

The Cube's most notable characteristic is its love-it-or-hate-it styling. Its boxlike shape is spearheaded by an expressionless front end and a strangely asymmetrical rear defined by a wraparound back window. The Cube's large swing-out rear door adds both to its versatility and its overall styling theme. The Cube's slab-sided, appliance-like design is definitely not for everyone.

Styling aside, the Cube has the right footprint to tool around narrow city streets without hangups. Its concise measurements make tight parking spaces less of a challenge. And despite its smallish exterior, the Cube's geometry allows for a remarkably spacious interior with plenty of passenger and cargo room.

Except for new Puredrive exterior badges and one new paint color, the Cube remains unchanged for 2013. Two previously available versions, the base 1.8 and the S Indigo edition, are no longer included in the lineup.

Offering style and guile, the Nissan Cube is a viable choice for buyers with a brave sense of style and a need for practicality.

Comfort & Utility

The Cube has one of the most unique 5-passenger interiors we've ever seen. Aside from being practical and laden with features, it is highly stylized, with unusual elements such as a round, dash-top swatch of shag carpeting and a wavy headliner that mimics the ripples of a pebble dropped in water. Compelling textures, circular design elements and specialized mood lighting in various hues add to the effect.

The theme is artful but also simple and functional. The gauges and controls are easy to read and operate. The front seats are comfortable, well-padded and well-positioned. The spacious rear seats offer a recline-and-slide feature to accommodate passengers of varying heights. Also, both rows offer an abundance of head- and legroom, thanks to the Cube's space-efficient upright design.

The Cube's interior shape also pays off in cargo space. With the rear seat folded down, this wagon-like car has a cargo capacity of more than 50 cu-ft, close to that of some compact crossovers. That's enough to haul a considerable amount of luggage or gear.

The 2013 Nissan Cube is available in two trim levels: S and SL. Standard convenience equipment for the S includes cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a 6-speaker stereo. The top SL model adds automatic climate control and an option package with some technology content.

Technology

The Cube doesn't have as many advanced electronic features as some of its competitors. Optional amenities include a push-button start, Bluetooth connectivity, a backup camera and touchscreen navigation with real-time traffic information. All of these features are included with the Preferred package, which is optional only on the Cube SL.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The front-wheel-drive Cube is powered by a 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder engine producing 122 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. Power is delivered by either a standard 6-speed manual transmission or an optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

The engine offers a smooth, steady power delivery, especially when paired with the CVT. This transmission also helps optimize engine output and fuel efficiency. The only drawback is the engine's tendency to sound labored at higher rpm.

Fuel economy is rated at 27 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with the CVT or 25/30 mpg with the manual transmission.

Safety

Standard safety features for the Cube include ABS, traction control, stability control, active front head restraints and six airbags: front, side and head curtain.

The Cube earned four out of five stars in crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the highest ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Driving Impressions

The Cube was made for city driving. It's quick and it accelerates adequately off the line, making it ideal for stop-and-go urban driving. The Cube is highly maneuverable in tight parking lots and narrow streets, with a small footprint and a tight turning radius.

At higher speeds, the Cube exhibits noticeable wind and road noise. Its ride is mostly comfortable, but the Cube is not a very able handler. Its high center of gravity results in considerable body roll in corners. The Cube also suffers from light steering and a softly sprung suspension. Agility and nimbleness are not among its strengths.

Other Cars to Consider

Scion xB: Both the xB and the Cube are stylish approaches to small practical transportation. The Cube has more passenger and cargo space, while the xB offers premium high-tech audio features and a more responsive engine.

Kia Soul: Like the Cube, the Soul is known for its hip and funky styling. Both cars benefit from an abundance of available features and ample passenger room. Both also suffer from a noisy ride.

Honda Fit: The Fit offers a much sportier drive, emphasizing nimbleness and precise steering. Its exterior styling is also more aerodynamic than the Cube, helping it achieve better fuel economy. The Fit's interior is more modern, with a wider array of standard and optional features. However, the Cube has more passenger and cargo space and enjoys a softer, more compliant ride.

AutoTrader Recommends

We prefer the range-topping Cube SL. This model offers a range of practical and upscale features but still remains affordable. Select the Preferred package, which adds useful features including a push-button start, navigation, a backup camera and a USB interface. We also strongly recommend going with the CVT transmission for better performance and fuel economy.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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